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O'Hearn sparks KC, looks to 'prove he belongs'

Royals first baseman's 3rd hit sets up 7-run 9th against Twins
@FlannyMLB
September 21, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- These final games to the 2019 regular season likely mean more to first baseman Ryan O'Hearn than most other Royals. O’Hearn is trying to prove he is still among the pieces Kansas City has going forward in the rebuild. Games such as Saturday night’s will help O’Hearn’s cause

MINNEAPOLIS -- These final games to the 2019 regular season likely mean more to first baseman Ryan O'Hearn than most other Royals.

O’Hearn is trying to prove he is still among the pieces Kansas City has going forward in the rebuild. Games such as Saturday night’s will help O’Hearn’s cause as he doubled in a run in the second inning and then drilled a tying two-run homer in the sixth inning as the Royals went on to an 12-5 win over the Twins at Target Field, halting a four-game skid.

Box score

O’Hearn, who now has 14 home runs but is hitting only .190, said he certainly has motivation to finish strong.

“Absolutely,” O’Hearn said. “I understand that this year didn’t go the way I wanted, but it is what it is. I got six games left to prove I belong here and go into Spring Training in good position.”

Cheslor Cuthbert who also fits into that category and needing to earn a spot on the 2020 team, delivered the go-ahead RBIs on a two-run pinch-hit homer in the ninth. O’Hearn got the inning going with a single, his third hit of the game. Cuthbert also had a bases-loaded walk in a seven-run ninth, the Royals’ biggest ninth-inning since Sept. 6, 2016 -- also at Target Field in a 10-3 triumph.

“You don’t [prove your worth] in one night,” manager Ned Yost said. “But it’s a boost. “The home run [by Cuthbert] was huge, but the base hit to start the ninth was huge. We were looking at different scenarios [with O’Hearn], but he was swinging the bat good. So we just let him hit to see if he could draw a walk or get a hit, and he came through.

“The offense never quits. It keeps grinding. These kids have made some pretty good headway this season. They just stay after it.”

Cuthbert had not played previously in this series, making it even more challenging coming off the bench against a tough left-hander in Taylor Rogers.

"It's really hard, but everything starts during practice, the way you focus and prepare yourself,” Cuthbert said. “When you're not starting, you never know what can happen during the game. You can get a pinch-hit, so you always need to be ready just like if you're playing.

"I just wanted to look for a good pitch, and he left me a slider down and in. I didn't try to do too much and it happened, homer."

O’Hearn’s blast in the sixth off Twins starter José Berríos capped a three-run inning and wiped out a 5-2 deficit.

“I was looking for something offspeed just because of the way he pitched me the first two times,” O’Hearn said. “He came at me with changeups and the last one was pretty much middle-middle.”

Right-hander Glenn Sparkman started for the Royals and he was sharp early, retiring seven of the first eight hitters he faced. But LaMonte Wade Jr. belted a home run off Sparkman in the third, and then tripled to start a four-run rally in the fifth that chased the right-hander.

After Wade’s triple, Sparkman gave up an RBI double to Luis Arraez, a walk to Jorge Polanco and an RBI single to Nelson Cruz. Left-hander Tim Hill replaced Sparkman, who gave up seven hits and five runs (four earned).

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.